I like this major new trend known as software-defined data center and this will be a highly disruptive force in enterprise computing. Gone are the days of expensive physical data center owned by large corporations. Now it is the rise of “soft” infrastructure. Virtual machines and virtual networks and storage can be provisioned and reconfigured rapidly and in a highly automated way, rather than being limited by the constraints of hardware infrastructure that was built for a much less dynamic environment. Most of all it makes great economic sense as the resource utilization will be highly efficient.
The “software-defined data center,” as it is commonly known, has business repercussions that go well beyond transforming data center technology. It has shaken long-term alliances between technology giants. Vendors are scrambling to reposition themselves to best exploit this new era of soft IT. VMWare which specialized in the server virtualization business, is expanding to the other areas, such as networking and storage. It recently acquired Nicira for $1.23B to get the software-defined networking business. It also acquired Virsto to get into the storage business.
There are three components here – compute/server, networking, and storage. The server virtualization (many virtual servers in one physical machine, IBM had this concept way back in the 1980s) is well known as VMware pioneered the trend and is the dominant vendor (thanks to the Windows world). However, Microsoft, Citrix, and Red Hat are offering alternative solutions.With almost 70 percent of workloads today running on virtualized servers according to IDC, this is certainly the most evolved component of the software-defined data center to date.
Software-defined network is less mature, but getting high focus now with Cisco, Juniper, and other networking giants entering the fray. In the last category of storage, there is a lot of activities also. Fusion-io went through an successful IPO and it creates storage layer based on flash technology. IBM, NetApp,HP, and EMC are all making moves in this area.
The move to the software-defined data center is the major technology shift of this decade, just as virtualization was in the 2000s and the Internet was in the 1990s. Like those previous shifts, there is a wealth of new opportunities for companies both new and old. This will be interesting to observe and see who wins. The race has a long way to go.